The Luxe List 2009, China: Aman at Summer Palace, Beijing

Relive Beijing’s imperial past at Amanresort’s first city hotel. Occupying a series of guesthouses where courtiers seeking an audience with China’s last empress, Dowager Cixi, were once billeted, the 51-suite property stays true to its roots with polished Jin clay tiles, lofty ceilings, intricate armoires, and Ming-style screens. Master paper cutters, calligraphers, and traditional musicians all add “old Beijing” flavor, while the Chinese Restaurant offers a more tangible taste with its succulent Peking duck and regional specialties. As easy as it is to lose yourself amid the hotel’s gardens and courtyards, it would be a shame not to make the most of the “secret door” that gives you after-hours (and crowd-free) access to the majestic palace pavilions (1 Gongmenqian, Haidian; 86-10/5987-9999;; doubles from US$550).

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